Why are some slogans able to catch fire and transform a business while others fizzle out and quickly head to obscurity? Let's take a look at what makes for a catchy slogan.
Catchy slogans are both original and memorable. That means they completely avoid cliches. They also avoid speaking in generalities or using phrases that could apply to any business. “Your home for the best quality” wouldn't be a catchy slogan. Neither would “The great service people.” Both could work for almost any company in any industry. They're bland and forgettable. We've heard similar lines thousands of times. Yet companies still settle for bad slogans like this everyday. The lines have little chance of being effective.
Before we talk about other characteristics catchy slogans have, it's important to note that just being original and memorable isn't enough. Your ultimate goal isn't to make someone laugh or think or even repeat your slogan 1000 times at parties. You want greater brand recognition. You want to be seen as different and better than your competition. Most of all, you want results. Now a great slogan can make someone laugh or think and can get you great results, but slogans that are simply clever for their own sake or push the creative envelope but don't push a brand aren't worth using.
A catchy slogan isn't just memorable, it works because it also perfectly captures the brand it's promoting. When you see the words “It’s finger lickin’ good” you instantly think of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Colonel Sanders. That phrase works because it’s original, it’s memorable and it cleverly describes how good it is. If they had used “Tasty chicken for the whole family” who knows if the brand would have grown anywhere near the size it has.
Generally catchy slogans are simple ones using as few words as possible to convey a thought. “We must protect this house” for Under Armour to “Got Milk?” for the dairy industry to “Make. Believe” for Sony. There are hundreds of examples of catchy slogans that say so much about the brand they represent in just a few words. Typically one to ten words is ideal to have a catchy slogan.
Just as the phrase itself should be simple, what it's trying to convey should be simple as well. Catchy slogans and taglines generally emphasize one simple idea. Southwest Airlines, “You are now free to roam about the country” is the perfect example of a slogan that works on every level. It's under ten words and it's a witty play off an airline industry term. More than that, it perfectly represents their brand. Just as Southwest’s slogan is a fresh approach to the way an airline should operate, the line itself is a twist on traditional airline verbiage. Just as Southwest goes against the grain, so does their slogan. No wonder they're considered the most successful brand in the airline industry and growing while their competition is filing for bankruptcy. It should be noted that some of the struggling airlines don't even have slogans!
Finally, catchy slogans, like Eveready Battery's slogan “Keep going and going and going...”
Repetition is essential for a slogan to be remembered and to help shape someone's opinion of the brand. In fact, you could even argue that the use frequency of a slogan is equally as important as the quality. Is Walmart's slogan “Save Money. Live Better” the most brilliant slogan ever conceived? Not even close. But most of their customers could quickly recall it because it's used on signage, in advertising, on their bags...and well, just about everywhere you see the Walmart name. They're insuring that when you think of low prices for the products you need for life, you think of Walmart first.
It should certainly be pointed out that most businesses, even most Fortune 500 companies don't have the money and resources Walmart has. So for the other 99% of companies, an equally generic slogan wouldn't work. The point is, whether you're Walmart or Walt's Reptile Mart, the more you use your slogan or tagline, the more likely it will be to stick in the mind of your target audience.
A catchy slogan can be such a key part of representing your brand. Think of the Disneyland tagline “The happiest place on Earth.” Who wouldn't want to go to a place like that? Finally, for a slogan to capture the imagination of the target audience it does require a little luck. Just like no movie mogul can predict with 100% accuracy what films will be blockbusters and which will be flops, the same holds true for slogans. Some slogans and taglines like Wendy's “Where's the Beef” surprise even the slogan’s creators with the runaway popularity that ensues. Catchy slogans can be tricky to predict but if you get a clever line and use it often, you've got a great shot of elevating your brand in a big way – even if you don't sell a million T-shirts with your slogan on them.
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